The United States and the Afghan Taliban resumed talks on Saturday (August 3rd) in Doha for an agreement paving the way for the end of US military intervention in Afghanistan. While Donald Trump is seeking to implement one of his campaign promises, the UN has announced that July has been the most violent month in the country since 2017.
This is the eighth round of negotiations in Doha between the Afghan insurgents and the United States, represented by US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. Washington is working hard to win a political agreement with the Taliban ahead of the Afghan presidential election scheduled for 28 September. "We have made a lot of progress, we are talking about it," Donald Trump told reporters on Friday.
In exchange for their military disengagement, the United States is demanding that the Taliban commit to a ceasefire and cut off any links with the jihadist Al Qaeda group. According to the Washington Post, the proposed agreement on the table plans to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 8,000, against 14,000 currently.
The United States and its NATO allies have been engaged since October 7, 2001 in a large military operation in Afghanistan, after the attacks of September 11, to hit Al-Qaeda camps there. Driven out of power by this intervention, the Taliban have since led a deadly insurgency in the country.
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'A peace agreement, not a withdrawal agreement'
"We are aiming for a peace agreement, not a withdrawal agreement [troops]: a peace agreement that allows for withdrawal," Zalmay Khalilzad insisted on Twitter on Friday when he arrived in Doha.
The agreement between Washington and the Taliban would open the way for an "inter-Afghan" dialogue between the insurgents and an Afghan government delegation. This is expected to take place in August in Oslo, according to diplomatic sources. So far, the Taliban have always firmly refused to discuss with the government, which they consider illegitimate.
But a recent meeting, in which government representatives took part "in a personal capacity" in early July, concluded with the promise of a "road map for peace". This included the return of the displaced and mentioning the rights of women, many of whom in Afghanistan worry that they will be sacrificed on the altar of a compromise with the Taliban.
For anti-terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman, the Taliban will be more than reluctant to break ties with al Qaeda. It's hard to "trust the promises of terrorist organizations," he says.
Many fear that Washington, in a hurry to end the longest war in US history, hastily concludes an agreement to withdraw its troops that would allow the insurgents to regain some form of power.
July's balance sheet is the heaviest since May 2017
Even as they said in July in Doha to reduce civilian casualties to "zero", the Taliban continued their attacks. On Wednesday, July 31, at least 34 people, mostly women and children, were killed when their bus jumped on an explosive device posed by the authorities by the insurgents.
July's record is the heaviest since May 2017, with more than 1,500 civilians killed or wounded, according to the UN. Despite talks to end the war, civilians continue to die at an "unacceptable" pace, the UN Mission in Afghanistan said on Tuesday.